Tom and Gerri (Broadbent and Sheen) are a happy middle-aged couple in London with an equally contented 30-year-old son Joe (Maltman). But Gerri's friend Mary (Manville) is another story: single and more a bit desperate, she also has a creeping alcohol problem. While she seems like the perfect fit for Tom's friend Ken (Wight), she instead has her eye on Joe, which becomes a problem when he brings a girlfriend (Fernandez) home. Meanwhile, Tom's brother (Bradley) is struggling with his strained relationship with his surly son (Savage).
All of this plays out over the four seasons of one year, as these people interact in a variety of ways. Each encounter, usually over dinner at Tom and Gerri's house, simmers with tension as the wrong things are said at all the wrong times. To this, Tom and Gerri react as peacemakers, which seems more than a little condescending to the troubled people around them. But life goes on, and at least they never turn their backs on their distraught friends and family.
Leigh and his amazing cast capture this with a lacerating attention to detail.
In many ways this feels like a French movie, as the characters talk incessantly, but what they say seems disconnected from what's actually going on. The actors approach this with a raw naturalism that takes the breath away; Broadbent and Sheen are simply perfect in their roles, while Manville and Fernandez shine as much showier characters and Bradley says more than everyone else with just a shrug.
The film is also impeccably shot, edited and scored by Dick Pope, Jon Gregory and Gary Yershon, respectively. It looks simply gorgeous, with unfussy sets and a very specific quality of light in each of the four seasonal chapters. Each season is punctuated with a visit to Tom and Gerri's allotment, which adds a very nice touch. The film also cleverly captures the fact that much of real life takes place in the kitchen. And that we cause the most harm when we refuse to say what needs to be said.
Run time: 129 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th November 2010
Box Office USA: $3.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $18.1M
Distributed by: Sony Classics
Production compaines: Thin Man Films, Film4
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 150 Rotten: 12
IMDB: 7.3 / 10
Director: Mike Leigh
Producer: Georgina Lowe
Screenwriter: Mike Leigh
Starring: Jim Broadbent as Tom, Lesley Manville as Mary, Ruth Sheen as Gerri, Oliver Maltman as Joe, Peter Wight as Ken, David Bradley as Ronnie, Martin Savage as Carl, Karina Fernandez as Katie, Michele Austin as Tanya, Imelda Staunton as Janet, Phil Davis as Jack (as Phil Davis)
Also starring: Mike Leigh
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